Peter Foss

Peter Foss


    Attorney General launches Coalition's 'Victims First' policy

    25/01/2001 12:00 PM

    The Coalition’s Victims First policy, launched by Attorney General Peter Foss today, will ensure that victims are given recognition, a role and rights in the criminal justice system.

    Central to the policy is a Victim’s Advocate, who will advocate on behalf of victims to ensure their rights. The Victim’s Advocate will also play a role to educate and assist Government agencies in dealing with victims.

    “We enacted the Victims of Crime Act in 1994 which for the first time statutorily recognised the rights of victims in the criminal justice system,” Mr Foss said.

    “Our ‘Victims First’ policy builds on these fundamental principles to ensure that victims will be treated with consideration and compassion throughout all Government agencies.”

    The policy outlines a ‘Victims of Crime Plan’ to be prepared and published by each department to ensure victims are helped in a manner that sees things from their perspective in their times of need.

    “Many areas of Government simply have no comprehension as to what a victim is going through, and the difficulties they face,” Mr Foss said.

    “To prepare a plan, the departments have to sit down and work out all their contacts with victims. Then they have to work out how they can give the maximum assistance with the minimum stress to the victims.”

    A particularly traumatic aspect for victims - by its very nature - is the court process.

    “A small but important initiative is the abolition of committal proceedings for criminal charges to go before the District and Supreme Courts,” Mr Foss said.

    “A substitute in the form of a revised pre-trial discovery will be made - however, as an interim measure until that is done, we intend to abolish preliminary hearings.”

    The Coalition has already proven their commitment to victims’ rights through a number of initiatives, including better access to compensation and restitution.

    “It is now much easier for victims to get a court order to ensure that an offender pays - which means that victims will not have to sue if they want to take action or if the offender later comes into money,” Mr Foss said.

    The expansion of the Victims Support Service (VSS) across the State, expansions of Victim Mediation Units to cover all Children’s Courts and increased resources for assessing Criminal Injuries Compensation are other measures already taken to ensure victims’ rights are being addressed.

    Under other initiatives the Coalition Government will:
    • require the Victim’s Advocate to be responsible for approving Victims of Crime Plans and ensuring compliance with them;
    • permit the Victim's Advocate, as a final measure for enforcement, to be entitled to declare that a victim's rights are legally enforceable and to take action to enforce that right. A legally enforceable victim right will be enforceable through the Equal Opportunity Tribunal as well as any other appropriate court; and -
    • establish a voluntary Victims’ Register so victims of crime can register their requirements under the Victims of Crime Act. Departments will be obliged to observe these requirements.

    • legislate to require courts to apply provisions that ensure that persons bailed or convicted of an offence, are subject to a condition or restraining order preventing them from returning to the scene of the crime or approaching the victims.

    • increase the compensation payable for a criminal injury under the Criminal Injuries Compensation Act to $65,000 and keep the level of compensation under review;
    • permit advance payments to victims in need where there is a clear liability but the amount of compensation has not been determined; and -
    • set out an administrative system to ensure that the restitution and compensation provisions of the Sentencing Act are being implemented.

    • entitle victims to free transcripts of the Judge's sentencing remarks;
    • amend the Victims of Crime Act to give victims a right to be heard in relation to trial venues. The victims choice of place of trial and the victims convenience will be major factors taken into account in deciding the venue for the trial;
    • continue the process of expanding the installation of videoconferencing facilities;
    • as the technology becomes available, make portable videoconferencing units available for hire for expert and other appropriate witnesses;
    • continue the courts upgrade program to provide improved facilities for witnesses and victims;
    • abolish committal proceedings for criminal charges to go before the District and Supreme Courts and substitute a revised form of pre-trial discovery;
    • as an interim measure, abolish preliminary hearings, as the abolition of committal proceedings is expected to take a long time to achieve; and -
    • empower the court to make rules for increased pre-trial criminal discovery.

    • support a Victims of Crime Conference funded under the Criminal Property Confiscation Act.

    • amend the Evidence Act so that prior convictions and prior similar behaviour is admissible evidence in family violence and stalking proceedings;
    • introduce 48 hour 'infringement notice' interim restraining orders which can be issued by police to restrain a person for up to 48 hours;
    • amend the Restraining Orders Act to include mental harassment within the definition of violence;
    • introduce a Family Violence Court at the Central Law Courts and in due course, expand the processes and expertise learned in these pilot courts to all courts; and -
    • extend the operation of the Family Violence Court to deal with all forms of stalking.

    Media contact: Danielle van Kampen 9213 6400